Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

22 posts from November 2007

Senate: Quit playing games with my heart!!

The senate is still wrangling over amendments.  Blog for Rural America says the chances of passing a farm bill this year are slowly diminishing.  It is really unfortunate to see partisan politics block a generally bi-partisan effort like the farm bill.  Senator Dorgan had some of the best quotes of the morning.  You can read them here.

In addition to the Grassley-Dorgan and FRESH amendments, Bread is endorsing two new amendments :

  • Brown/Sununu Amendment: Would reform crop insurance programs to bring the insurance companies' underwriting gains more into line with other types of insurance and lower their Administration & Operations ('A&O') reimbursement. No farmers would see any change in their premium costs or coverage. It would save money to reinvest in food stamps, conservation and McGovern-Dole international school feeding program.
  • Menendez Amendment: Would make a small cut to Direct Payments and reinvest the savings in food stamps and conservation. 

At this rate, the senate may not even debate these until next year.  Still, it is worth contacting your senators and urging them to vote in favor of these four amendments. Stay tuned...

Farm bill debate starts up, again

The farm bill debate was delayed last week as a result of a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over what types of amendments would be permitted.  Republicans had refused to offer amendments only relevant to the bill.  Since the farm bill may be the last piece of business to move through the senate this year, some see this as the last opportunity to address other issues.

Majority Leader Reid set up an amendment tree, which only allows amendments that are agreed upon unanimously by both sides to be presented.  So far, only the Democrats have agreed on their amendments.  All this to say, it's still slow going with the bill.

When I tuned in this afternoon,  Senator Reid was urging Republican leadership to approve their set of amendments.  Once this is locked in, they can move forward with the debate on the Dorgan-Grassley Payment Limits Amendment.  Your calls are still important!  Click here for more.

Bread for the World Institute Blog!

Bread for the World Institute has launched a blog - Institute Notes: A Dialogue on Overcoming Hunger and Poverty.  Here's a bit from their about page:

Bread for the World Institute provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. The Institute educates its advocacy network, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad. Institute Notes: A Dialogue on Overcoming Hunger and Poverty is a forum to discuss current news and research on domestic and international hunger and poverty issues.

Be sure to check it out!

A Review of the Movie "Strong Coffee: The Story of Cafe Feminino"

By Megan Marsh
Bread for the World activist
Colorado Springs

Non-coffee drinkers don't understand that there is a stark difference between a commercial brand like Folgers and something better. I've been accused of being a coffee snob several times for refusing to drink the break room sludge at work. My friend Andrea swears that coffee tastes better when you see the Fair Trade label on it.

Ah, we are vindicated! There is a difference!

Strong Coffee - the story of Cafe Femenino, a documentary shown at the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival on Nov. 3, documents the lives of women coffee farmers in Peru that make the choice to band together and separate their coffee from other beans being farmed in the area, and as a result have seen many positive changes in their communities, such as a decrease in violence and abuse towards women, more girls having the opportunity to be educated, and the general quality of life being improved in their communities.

From the tree to the cup, Cafe Femenino beans are kept separate from other coffee beans and the standards for quality are extremely high. They showed in the film what a "good" bean looks like, described its texture and smell, and compared it to beans that don't pass the stringent quality tests and get passed on to buyers who perhaps don't care as much about the quality (read: your multinational corporation, or as I like to call it - truck stop coffee).

As a result, the women farmers are able to earn $.02/lb. over the fair trade price. Everyone involved follows a model established by founders. Distributors are encouraged to roast the beans separately, keep the Cafe Femenino logo, and give a portion of the profits from the coffee to womens centers in their local communities. The beans are organic which means the farmers will not be exposed to harmful pesticides and the environment is also protected.

The communities that are associated with Cafe Femenino have found that when it is the woman who manages the money, it is better spent to take care of the family needs. Women will feed, clothe and educate their families with the money from the coffee, which is not always the case with the men. Therefore, Cafe Femenino is helping lift families out of poverty.

BuyWell International, a local distributor of Cafe Femenino was on site.

So there you have it folks...coffee that tastes better and makes you feel better. There is a difference.

Thank you to Carlos Navarro for giving us the heads up on the event (see earlier blog post entitled Coffee and Gender Equity), and thank you to the nice ladies at the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival for sneaking me in without a ticket (I didn't realize that you had to buy a ticket for the whole day instead of individual films.)

If you would like to purchase a copy of this DVD, click here.

Hoping for some debate next week...

Once again, the debate on the farm bill has been delayed.  It may start up again early next week.  Blog for Rural America is live-blogging the farm bill debate (when it is actually happening!) - be sure the check it out.  I was a little disappointed when I read this post on their blog:

....I can't remember who, but earlier someone referenced the 2002 debate in the Senate. Apparently the debate lasted 4 weeks, 245 amendments were considered, and 19 roll call votes were taken.


Let's hope that the process moves smoothly next week.  Keep checking our website for updates and ways to take action on various amendments.  Invite your friends to call congress in support of the Dorgan-Grassley payment limit amendment and Lugar-Lautenberg reform amendment.

On the global front, I read a great post today on the Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation Blog.  Lallie Lloyd writes about why churches should advocate for the Millennium Development Goals.  She is one of the main contributors to a study guide for churches about the MDGs.

Google has teamed up with the UN and Cisco to launch a MDG Monitoring Site.  It's an excellent resource for educating ourselves and others about progress towards the MDGs.  I really enjoyed browsing through the site! Check it out.

November 12-18 is Global Poverty Prayer WeekTearfund UK has launched a website with resources for organizing a prayer event in your community.  I love the idea of "Prayer Pods."  It's a creative way to incorporate art into our prayers about global poverty. 

Farm Bill Debate Delayed

The Senate was busy yesterday with other business.  They may take up the farm bill later today or early tomorrow  The first item of discussion will be the Dorgan-Grassley payment limit amendment.  If you haven't had a chance to call your senators, you still have time.  Call 1-800-826-3688 and urge them to vote in favor of the Dorgan-Grassley amendment.  For complete talking points and background on what's happening, check out our website.

As always, the media is putting out some excellent editorials and articles about the farm bill debate. 

Time Magazine :: Why Our Farm Policy is Failing
LA Times :: A chance to end farm subsidies
Washington Post :: Cotton and Conscience by Michael Gerson

Farm Bill Nutrition Facts

From Today's WaPo by Tom Toles

Students Call for Reform of the Farm Bill

Ari, Cathy and Caitlin
Photo originally uploaded by hungerconference

Mike Batell, our Faith Outreach Organizer in the Minneapolis office, recently traveled to Madison, WI for the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness Conference - (NSCAHH).  On Saturday, he had a chance to talk to students about reform of the farm bill.  He encouraged students to take out their cell phones on the spot and call their senators about the bill.  Over 160 calls came in from students! After the general sessions, laptops were set up and students could invite their friends on Facebook to make a call!  5,000 people have received the message on Facebook as of today!

Check out the blog about the conference.

Senators Fight for Farm Bill Changes - NPR

David Beckmann, Bread's president, was featured in a segment on NPR about the farm bill.

Listen to it here.

How did it go? Ask your friends to call!

How did your call go? Let us know if you made a call by clicking here.

The debate on the farm bill started about an hour ago.  Senator Harkin is wearing a killer green tie.  If you want to watch it live, check it out on C-SPAN. We anticipate the introduction of amendments sometime tomorrow.  Lugar-Lautenberg will come up later in the week, while Grassley-Dorgan is likely to be the first or second amendment on the floor.  We're hearing good news about broad support for Grassley-Dorgan.  The amendment would place a hard cap on commodity payments of $250,000 per year and it provides a better definition of who is considered a farmer.  Over five years, the amendment will save $513 million and direct this funding into nutrition, specialty crops and beginning farmers and ranchers.

Lugar-Lautenberg will replace the existing commodity payment programs with a system of improved and expanded crop insurance.  It is a viable alternative to our current payment structure.  We have yet to hear how much will be saved with this change, but savings will be redirected into nutrition, conservation and McGovern-Dole international school feeding program. Michael Pollan mentioned this amendment in his NY Times editorial - Weed it and Reap.

A more radical alternative proposed by Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, would scrap the current subsidy system and replace it with a form of free government revenue insurance for all American farmers and ranchers, including the ones who grow actual food. Commodity farmers would receive a payment only when their income dropped more than 15 percent as the result of bad weather or price collapse. The $20 billion saved under this plan, called the Fresh Act, would go to conservation and nutrition programs, as well as to deficit reduction.

Keep those calls coming.  Take your action to the next level:

What are some other ways to respond?  Post your thoughts in the comments section.

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